By NITZ ARANCON
and LITO RULONA
RELATIVES of the five indigenes recently killed in Pangantucan town, Bukidnon, have threatened to file murder charges against soldiers from the First Special Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division.
The indigenes killed in what the relatives and a human rights watchdog as a “massacre” were Herminio Samia, 70, and his son Joebert Samia, 20, Norman Samia, 13, Elmer Somina, 17, and Emir Somina, 19, all residents of Sitio Mando, Barangay Mendis in Pangantucan town.
Erio Inahan, a former village councilor of Barangay Mendis, said the five fatalities were all his cousins. Inahan claimed that on Aug. 18, at about 3:30 pm, soldiers from the First Special Battalion “massacred” the five indigenes in their huts. “Soldiers riddled them with bullets even though their hands were raised,” Inahan said in the dialect. “Dili man sila NPA, mga mag-uuma man kana sila.”
For his part, Fr. Christopher Ablon, spokesperson for the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan-NMR), urged 4ID commander Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao to investigate the incident. This, even as he added that they would be providing the victims’ relatives with legal counsel.
Ablon called for an independent body to conduct a fact-finding mission to unearth facts relevant to the incident. “Also, we urge the local governments to extend immediate humanitarian assistance to the families of the victims and safeguard the lone survivor who is currently experiencing a trauma because of the incident. Those killed were not rebels but innocent Lumads, and what transpired was not a raid but a massacre,” he said.
Meanwhile, the New People’s Army said “state troopers should not be celebrating” since the five indigenes were never rebels. In an emailed statement yesterday, Mamerto Bagani, spokesperson of the NPA-Mt. Kitanglad Subegional Command, said the five indigenes the 3rd Special Forces Company of the 1st SF Battalion killed were not combatants of the NPA but “mere peasants.”
“They were peppered (with bullets) even though they raised their hands in surrender. Their bodies were sent by members of the Pangantucan police station to a funeral parlor in Valencia City and there they were claimed by their relatives the day after,” said Bagani.
He said one Col. Alvarez and Camp Evangelista’s spokesman, Capt. Martinez, have repeatedly asserted without proof that they were NPA members.
According to Bagani, an NPA unit had an encounter with the 3rd SFC “more or less four kilometers from the victims’ hut at around the same time the massacre happened.
He said that during the firefight, 2Lt. Alvin Cantala Balangcod was killed while Pfc Virgil Soto Rubantes was seriously wounded.
Bagani said two NPA members were wounded, and a firearm was left behind. According to Capt. Martinez, what happened was a legitimate encounter, and he vehemently denied that soldiers “massacred” the indigenes.
Martinez claimed that they recovered an AK-47 assault rifle and several subsersive documents from the five fatalities after the encounter.
He said the materials they recovered would prove that the five indigenes were not peasants but combatants of the NPA. (with reports from cong b. corrales)